Communication Breakdown


Here are some things to consider when talking about the Church with those who aren’t members.
ballerina and soccer player

Photo illustrations by Church Publishing Services

Imagine you’re talking to someone who says this: “They told me our combination was pas de bourrée, glissade, grand jeté, but I knew I was supposed to do glissade, glissade, pas de chat.

Or this: “During stoppage time their winger got a red card after arguing about a foot fault. On the following set play our striker was able to trap the cross and score.”

If you know ballet, you probably understood the first statement. And if you know soccer, you probably understood the second statement. But if you’d never learned about these things, you’d have little idea what these people were saying. These are examples of jargon—special words and phrases that are particular to a certain activity or group.

As you may know, in the Church we have our own jargon that’s pretty difficult for others to understand. When we talk with people about the Church, our intent should be to help them understand who we are and what we believe so that they can feel the Spirit—or at least become more comfortable with us and not feel like outsiders when they’re with a group of Latter-day Saint youth. Jargon often gets in the way of this goal.

On the next page are some of the more obscure expressions you might consider simplifying when you talk with people about the Church.

What We Say

What Others May Hear

What We Might Say Instead

My ward …

My area of the hospital …

My congregation …

The stake dance is at the stake center.

The dance involving cuts of meat is at a storage center for cuts of meat.

The regional youth dance is at the regional church building.

At Mutual, we …

At the common [word missing], we …

At our youth activity night, we …

In this last dispensation …

In this last [something-or-other] …

In our day …

Apostasy

A lake of noodles?

Falling away

Deacons, teachers, priests

Men who work for a church, people who teach in school, and religious men in robes

Young men 12–13 years old, 14–15 years old, and 16–17 years old

Beehives, Mia Maids, Laurels

Where bees live, [no idea], and some kind of plants

Young women 12–13 years old, 14–15 years old, and 16–17 years old

Celestial kingdom

A fairy-tale land, maybe?

Heaven, or where Heavenly Father lives

Premortal existence

A parallel universe, perhaps?

Our life as spirits before we came to earth

I’m going to seminary.

I’m studying to become a minister.

I’m going to religion classes for youth.

We’re going to do baptisms for the dead.

We’re going to do something morbid.

We’re going to the temple to do special ceremonies on behalf of our ancestors.

My older brother is in institute.

My older brother is in an asylum.

My older brother goes to religion classes for young adults.

The gospel has been restored.

The stories in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John have been renovated.

or Christ’s message has been refurbished.

or Christianity as a whole has been repaired.

The Church that Christ established was changed and fell away, and now it’s been brought back, along with His true teachings.

We have our agency.

We have our business with clients.

We are free to choose.

Word of Wisdom

Good advice

Health code

This list isn’t comprehensive, nor is it meant to suggest that you should never use these words in conversation. It’s merely meant to make you aware of how jargon can sometimes be an obstacle to communication. It’s OK to use our accustomed vocabulary—as long as you can explain it and the explanation doesn’t distract from your main message.

Above all, remember that your purpose as a disciple of Christ is ultimately to help people come unto Him so that they can return to our Heavenly Father. Choosing our words carefully may seem like a small thing, but it might crack open the door of understanding just enough for someone to eventually feel comfortable about entering in completely.

Find More Terms

Look through chapter 3 of Preach My Gospel, which contains principles for missionaries to study and teach. Under the heading “Key Definitions” (pages 44, 58, 70), you’ll find lists of terms people may have trouble understanding.

Build Understanding

Elder M. Russell Ballard

“When opportunities present themselves to you in the course of your lives, may the Lord bless you to share the gospel generously and kindly with [those] who are not members of the Church to bring about a better understanding of the restoration of the gospel. That is our responsibility as Christians. That is the responsibility of every member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”

Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “Building Bridges of Understanding,” Ensign, June 1998, 68.